Dog Drank Dirty Water? Leptospirosis And Its Treatment

A dog’s digestive system is very different from a human’s.

Dogs do not have the enzyme to break down and absorb sugars, fats, or proteins as humans do.

This can lead to problems if they are given something that isn’t natural for them to eat.

One of these foods could be dirty water!

But what happens if your dog drank dirty water? And how does it affect their health?

In this article, we will answer all your questions about leptospirosis in dogs and give you tips on how to prevent it.

Can My Dog Get Sick From Drinking Dirty Water?

Yes! Dogs can become ill with a disease called leptospirosis after they’ve been exposed to the bacteria while drinking or if it enters their nose, eyes or mouth through contact with an infected animal’s urine.

Exposure typically occurs when dogs sniff around puddles of stagnant rainwater on sidewalks and in yards where animals have urinated before them or by wading into contaminated streams/lakes which may be nearby sources for the bacteria as well.

It might also happen if your pet drinks out of toilets (yuck!).

It’s important that you keep your pets away from any surface where there is standing water such as ponds, lakes, creeks, streams, and puddles.

Can Dirty Water Kill A Dog?

dog drinking dirty water from a source

Yes! Animals who drink contaminated water can die from the bacteria within a few days or weeks of exposure to it – even drinking just one small glassful may be enough to cause illness in some dogs.

The good news is there’s plenty you can do to prevent these things from happening!

We’ll talk more about how to protect your pup later on in today’s post so keep reading for even more helpful information!

Why Do Dogs Drink Dirty Water?

Dogs drink dirty water because they are attracted to the smell and taste of it.

The most common reason dogs will drink from contaminated sources is due to instinctual behavior in search of a natural source of water, or if there’s not enough clean drinking water available at home.

It doesn’t take much for your dog to pick up bacteria that can make them sick – only about 15 minutes after contact with an infected animal (even if you don’t see any visible signs).

What Disease Do Dogs Get From Drinking Dirty Water?

dog playing in muddy water

Dogs can get a variety of diseases from drinking dirty water – some more common than others.

The most important ones to know about are leptospirosis, parvovirus, and giardia.

Leptospirosis is an illness caused by the bacteria Leptospira sp., which live in wet environments like standing or running water where they infect small animals like rats, raccoons, opossums, and other wild creatures that come into contact with it through their mouth or nose.

Dogs have weaker immune systems to these types of infections so if your dog drinks contaminated water then there’s a chance he could contract lepto (sometimes referred to as “leaky butt”).

When dogs drink infected muddy water, they can get sick within a few days with signs of vomiting and diarrhea.

Parvovirus – This virus causes vomiting and bloody diarrhea which lead to dehydration and potentially fatal kidney damage.

Parvo is highly contagious and can also be transferred from a dog’s paws to your hands as you pet them, so it’s important that you have good hygiene habits when around dogs (wash your hands after touching any dog or anything they’ve touched).

Leptospirosis causes fever in humans and flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle aches, and shivers.

It may lead to meningitis or liver failure but most people recover without treatment if the infection is caught early enough (within 72 hours).

Leptospirosis is not common in the United States but there are more cases reported each year as people increase their contact with wild animals, like raccoons and opossums, who may carry this bacteria.

Dogs who contract leptospirosis will usually need expensive IV fluids and antibiotics in hospital for several days or weeks but if they’re lucky enough to survive it there’s no long-term damage done other than weakness from muscle atrophy sometimes which can be fixed with physiotherapy.

What Are The Signs Of Leptospirosis In Dogs?

The signs of lepto include fever, headache, muscle aches/pain in extremities which most likely will be the front, back, and hind limbs, vomiting, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and abdominal pain.

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms you should take him to a vet as soon as possible.

What Does Leptospirosis Do To Dogs?

The first symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle aches/pain in extremities which most likely will be the front, back, and hind limb, vomiting (sometimes containing blood), red eyes (conjunctivitis), and abdominal pain are shown if there’s an infection in your dog’s body.

If left untreated lepto can affect all major organ systems including the liver, lungs kidney & brain causing seizures due to cerebral edema as well as renal failure.

Some dogs become too weak to even drink water and die.

Is There A Test For Leptospirosis In Dogs?

The virus can be detected in the blood or urine, but it may not always show up.

A more reliable test is to take small tissue samples from your dog’s nose and send them off for examination under a microscope (a nasal smear).

*If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please consult with your physician.*

Will My Dog Survive Leptospirosis?

If your dog is diagnosed with Leptospirosis, there are two options for treatment: “The decision to treat or not depends on how severe the symptoms are.” (PetMD).

If it’s caught early enough, your vet may be able to prescribe antibiotics. Some vets will also say that dogs can recover from lepto without being treated if they’re healthy and have a good immune system.

However, those who do require care usually need around five days of antibiotic therapy.

“Dogs that survive an infection by LPS but still show clinical signs six months after exposure often develop chronic kidney disease.” (Vet Info Hub).

Your best bet is to catch any symptoms in time so you won’t find yourself worrying about your pup’s health.

Who Are At High Risk For Leptospirosis?

  1. Dogs that go to areas with a higher risk of exposure, including dogs who travel or live in rural environments.
  2. Older and unvaccinated dog breeds (particularly German shepherds) are also at high risk for developing the disease.
  3. Pregnant women should be cautious about letting their pets near them because they may have contracted it from an animal.
  4. If you’re vaccinated against lepto, your risks of being exposed is reduced dramatically if not entirely eradicated.

Does My Dog Really Need A Leptospirosis Vaccine?

A leptospirosis vaccine can be used to prevent the infection in dogs that are at high risk for contracting it, but some experts recommend waiting until your dog is older than 12 months because of possible adverse reactions.

The rabies vaccine should also be administered if not already done so to reduce the risks significantly.

If you’re unsure about what vaccinations your pup needs, consult with your vet and they will let you know which vaccines he or she requires based on age and breed type.

This way, when out walking him or her around town, both human-pups won’t have to worry! (DVM 360).

What Does Leptospirosis Do To Humans?

Leptospirosis is an infection that can be transferred from animals to humans. It’s caused by bacteria and, when contracted, will cause flu-like symptoms in people including fever, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches (DVM 360).

The best way to prevent contracting the disease is through vaccinations for both your pet or animal as well as yourself!

That way you’ll always have protection against any type of leptospirosis.(DVM 360)

How To Treat Lepto?

Some dogs who have been infected with Leptospira bacteria are prescribed antibiotics to kill the bacterial infection.

Antibiotics work by killing or stopping the growth of these nasty little bugs that cause urinary tract infections, among other unpleasantness.

The earlier treatment is started, however, the better they can be effective at treating your symptoms and getting rid of them altogether!

Treatment for leptospirosis is both difficult and time-consuming.

It requires aggressive intravenous fluid treatment, antibiotics to knock out the infection, medications that reduce vomiting from other effects of kidney or liver failure—depending on the severity of the disease.

But even with all these efforts at present in some cases, they aren’t always successful when organ failure has set in place.

Once your kidneys and/or liver have failed there’s a much worse prognosis if you hope to recover soon again.

How To Prevent Your Dog From Getting Lepto

To prevent your dog from getting leptospirosis:

  1. Always keep dogs off of stagnant or standing water that might be contaminated with animal urine. This is the most common way for a pet to come in contact with this disease! Dogs and other animals can become infected by drinking dirty water, swimming through it, wading in it, licking up drops on moist ground near where their owners have urinated (or even just passing by).
  2. Lepto does not live long outside of its host so there’s no need to worry about contracting the infection from an object such as a toy or food bowl. However if you suspect your pet has had contact with leptospira bacteria then do not share any utensils that may have come into contact with your pet such as a leash, collar or bowl.
  3. If you know that your dog has been in contact with leptospira bacteria then it’s important to get them vaccinated immediately! Lepto can be treated but the disease is deadly if left untreated and there are no human vaccines available for this infection.
  4. Always be sure to keep vaccinations up to date because animals who have not had their full series of shots against these diseases can become more susceptible over time.


It’s important to remember that leptospirosis is a serious disease and can be fatal if left untreated.

If your dog has come into contact with the bacteria then it is vital to get them vaccinated immediately and closely monitor their health for any signs of infection or illness.

If you have any questions about this blog post, please leave a comment below! I look forward to answering your queries as soon as possible!

Remember: All comments are moderated so they may not appear right away but rest assured they will show up eventually 🙂


  1. Brown GK Jr., Schantz JE (2009). Leptospiral Infection in Dogs & Cats: A Review of Epidemiology, Clinical Signs Illness Course & Diagnosis Treatment Management for Animals – Vet Clin N Am Small Anim Pract 39(2005), pp 321–351 PMID 20525850] DOI: do: 1351751909150215 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher.

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